When you walk in the door, Delisi’s Pizzeria and Pub looks like any other neighborhood joint with TV blaring the game at the bar, regulars bellied up with beer and food, a friendly doggie greeter at the door and the addition of a few booths for eatin’.

While the regular menu includes a vegetarian pizza option, there’s another menu (separate but equal I guess—would be easier and make us feel even more included if menus were consolidated) that also lists vegan products in the toppings section. Upton’s Naturals has the sausage, pepperoni and chorizo covered while Chicago Soydiary’s Teese® cheese is available as the vegan cheese option. Delisi’s is also toying with offering Daiya Italian Blend vegan cheese. Now granted, I’ve never had a pizza with Teese done right but all the hoopla over Daiya forced me to try that one first. My next trip will be to try the same pizza but with Teese.

Anyway, I was prepared to order thin-crust like I always do because I don’t like to risk getting a soggy thick crust. If the chef doesn’t know what he/she’s doing, a deep-dish can go horribly wrong, especially the crust. If done well, you can even reheat it in the nukebox and have a decent lunch the next day. It’s all in the dough, the oiling of the pan and parbaking. If not done well, it can be soggy in the middle, ridiculously high and burnt around the edges (traditional Chicago deep-dish crust should be about the same height as the toppings), rubbery and floury tasting.

Also, if you really don’t know your deep-dish, you wouldn’t know that the tomato ‘sauce’ is actually shredded tomatoes rather than a thin saucy liquid pulled from a jar or vat. AND the cheese is the first ingredient to go on the crust, not the topper most often seen at pizzerias outside Chicago trying to emulate our famous pizza.

To test Delisi’s talents I ordered a basic traditional deep dish with:

  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Green peppers
  • Italian sausage

Verdict? — 5 happy cows!

Let’s break it down starting with the crust—the foundation of any pizza, deep, thin or stuffed.

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Prior to going vegan I’d had many many pizza’s and this was the first time I’d had one with a crust that was flavorful, golden and not burned, and meaty without being chewy/rubbery. I love Delisi’s crust. AND it’s vegan. No whey or butter used but still has a nice buttery crumb. It also seemed to me that the crust was either made from or with a goodly amount of cornmeal which was AWESOME! I loved that it wasn’t all floury tasting. It had major depth.

Upton’s Naturals fake meats with real flavor.

Most vegetarian pizzas simply leave off the meat which leaves a pizza not really tasting traditional which is a real bummer if that’s the experience you want. Delisi’s offers several Upton’s mock meats as optional toppings including sausage, pepperoni and chorizo. I opted for the sausage and it didn’t disappoint. Spicy, correctly textured, chunky and Delisi’s put just the right amount on the pizza. My next pizza will be half sausage/half pepperoni for a good comparison. I’m excited about the pepperoni because to my knowledge, there’s only one other vegan, to-remain-nameless, pepperoni on the market and it is disappointing.

As a side note: it would be interesting to try a bacon and pineapple pizza someday, if mock bacon ever became an option.

Upton’s has been in business only 4 years yet makes one of the widest ranges of interesting and authentic fake meats available. All with ingredient lists that are readable and not scary.

Have a nice Daiya!

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Please excuse the crappy photos as I lost my tripod and was shaky from not eating since breakfast and having to drive 2 hours home during rush hour while huffing pizza in the car. In hindsight, I should have been more prepared. I promise better photos next time.

Daiya seems to have figured out the science behind making a gooey melty vegan cheese. Not sure how they did it but as long as I don’t eat Daiya daily, I don’t care. Daiya comes pre-shredded and bagged for food service customers as a flavor labeled ‘Italian Blend’. The owner of Delisi’s is still testing Daiya and is a bit concerned about the flavor. I thought it was fine. At least it HAD flavor (many vegan cheeses taste like cardboard or dirty socks, NOT that I’ve actually tasted a dirty sock), and yes, that flavor may be a teensy bit like 1970’s style processed products but it was still yummy and comforting. I was happy to have something one more leap closer to the real thing without the cruelty and the cholesterol.

Note: I’m refraining from using the word stretchy to describe Daiya because in this instance, it was only mildly stretchy. That MAY have been due to the long 2-hour commute during rush hour and maybe the pizza had cooled down too much by the time I got home. I don’t know but next time, I’m eating while at Delisi’s so as to view this wonderful Daiya stretch I keep hearing about.

Teese vs. Daiya.

As mentioned above, Delisi’s normally uses Teese® cheese from the awesome guys at Chicago Soydairy. While I love love love Teese, I have never had it on a pizza done right. I once ordered it on a pizza at Whole Foods in River Forest but I think those WF folks must be idjits. I know there’s a way to get Teese to be meltier but Whole Foods doesn’t know how to accomplish that — don’t waste your time ordering it at the River Forest store. So for a more formal comparison, my next trip to Delisi’s will be specifically to compare Daiya to Teese. I suspect they will both have their merits and that Teese will taste more authentic while Daiya may be more melty. This is why I’m wondering if blending the two may be worth trying. Just thinking. I’ve always loved Teese buffalo-style mozzarella even served unmelted with fresh tomatoes in a traditional Caprese salad and can’t wait to see what a proper pizzeria like Delisi’s can do with it.

How ‘bout them ‘maters?

The interesting thing about tomato sauce is that a traditional Chicago deep dish has chunky or shredded tomatoes rather than saucy ‘maters. Delisi’s tomatoes were nice and chunky, still looked like tomatoes rather than some pureed watery mess and were appropriately herbed. This means their tomatoes still TASTE like tomatoes. And having been on a losing streak growing my own tomatoes this summer, Delisi’s tomatoes were very comforting.

Final note.

I should mention that Delisi’s is a locally owned pub and pizzeria with open mic on Thursdays. It’s a very unpretentious, unyuppy, non-trendy neighborhood pub on a non-descript strip across from Rosehill Cemetary. Very normal signage for a very normal hole-in-the-wall kinda dive bar/restaurant but with extremely awesome pizza. They reportedly grow their own basil and I did see an AeroGrow® light near the kitchen. They are some of the most friendly people you’ll meet and if you’re looking for a regular haunt, this would be a great one. Delisi’s Pizzeria and Pub has a website but I haven’t been able to get the lower pages to load. They also have Facebook and MySpace pages and here is a link to their Yelp page.

And if you want to be prepared to order only vegan beverages, I recommend checking out Barnivore to get your list of beer, wine and liquor together before going. I have yet to run into a bar that knew about vegan beverages.

Also, if you’re a hard core vegan who won’t go into any establishment that also serves omnivores, Delisi’s isn’t for you. While they keep everything separate in the kitchen, some vegans just don’t swing that way. Delisi’s is focused on being inclusive and serving everyone which means that you can take your meat-eating family from Southern Indiana and y’all will be happy.

Oh, one more note, no matter how hungry you are, how long it takes to drive home, and how good the pizza smells, DO NOT attempt to eat a deep-dish pan pizza while driving. Trust me on this.

Sourcing products used by Delisi’s.

Delisi’s Pizzeria and Pub — also on Facebook, GrubHub*, MySpace and Yelp

*while Delisi’s is listed on GrubHub, I don’t see the vegan items listed as options and am unsure how you’d order vegan via GrubHub. Maybe you’d have to just call Delisi’s?

Upton’s Naturals — also on MySpace and Facebook

Daiya — and on Facebook (supposedly only food service at the moment but can be had at the following)

Teese® by Chicago Soydairy — and on Facebook